By Charlotte Helston
In the trial of two men co-accused of operating a Lumby grow-operation, one was found guilty as charged while the other earned only a stern warning from the judge.
Joshua Knaflich and Michael Revell were charged with production of a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking and fraudulent consumption of electricity.
In the trial, Revell was represented by Vernon lawyer Darren Kautz while Knaflich represented himself.
Judge Anne Wallace said police got an anonymous tip in 2011 about a suspected marijuana grow operation in a medium-sized house on Grandview Rd. just outside the village of Lumby.
During the investigation, a cop drove by the house and noticed a pick-up truck registered to Revell parked in the driveway. He didn't see Revell anywhere on the premises but noticed a strong smell of marijuana, and heard fans running within the house.
Another time, the officer spied Knaflich leaving the house.
In 2010, a year before the investigation even started, Revell was stopped at a road check. The scent of marijuana was strong despite Revell's numerous air fresheners. Remnants of fresh marijuana leaves were on the floor of the vehicle along with items typically used in a grow operation. Tucked into the glove-box were two electricity bills, but they weren't addressed to Revell.
During a police search of the residence, Knaflich was found inside with his dog. In the basement, 1,679 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were discovered along with screens for drying, containers of chemicals and fertilizers, lights and temperature controllers. The walls were swathed in plastic.
Revell's fingerprints were taken from an electrical panel and a light, but were not found on any of the equipment.
An electrical bypass was discovered to be powering the grow-op.
Kautz said Crown counsel Richard Barton's argument relied on "insufficient circumstantial evidence."
He said nothing linked the evidence obtained during the road check in 2010 to the grow-op busted in 2011. He dismissed the fact that Revell's vehicle was later found on the premises, arguing a friend could have borrowed his client's vehicle.
"There is no evidence he was there, that he entered the house. No one saw him," Kautz said.
As for the fingerprints, he said they could easily have been deposited there before the electrical panel or light ever made it into the house. He said it was possible for Revell to have touched them in the store where they were purchased.
"Does (the evidence) raise suspicion? Probably. But it's not consistent with guilt," Kautz said.
Kautz noted numerous "gaps" in the story, but said they shouldn't be used against his client.
"Mr. Revell could be a participant of the drug trade in general, but there's no evidence to say he had any knowledge of the grow-op in the Grandview residence, (or) that he had any control of it."
Knaflich's own submission was brief and to the point.
"I'm not a lawyer and I'm not as smart as these guys," he said, adding he was rather nervous.
He gave a list of the Crown's points and offered up facts he said proved his innocence.
When police investigated the residence they found the yard was scattered with feces left by Knaflich's dog. Knaflich said the Crown's theory that he lived there, tending the grow-op while his dog protected the property was simply not true.
"My dog is not guard dog material," Knaflich said. "Fact: No gloves were found at the scene and my fingerprints were not found anywhere."
"Point: The officer who read me my rights said I was sober and calm. Fact: I had no involvement with the grow-op and had no reason to be concerned."
As she gave her decision, Wallace said the operation would have provided the men with "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and much more product than one would need for merely personal use.
"Given what was found in the vehicle, I find Mr. Revell was definitely involved in the marijuana trade in a significant manner," Wallace said.
But without harder evidence of his participation in the grow-op, she was not confident enough to find him guilty on any of the charges.
"Mr. Knaflich is in a very different situation."
She said there was evidence he was the only one living at the Grandview Rd. residence.
"There were letters addressed to him, even though the residence was not in his name," she said. "In the kitchen two sets of scales were found with baggies right beside them. The evidence before me is they were not used for baking."
Knaflich claimed he was at the residence doing yard work, but Wallace said the property only featured gravel and his dog's feces.
She said Barton proved that Knaflich was tending the marijuana crops, and found him guilty of production and possession for the purposes of trafficking. She did not have sufficient evidence to find him guilty of fraudulent consumption of electricity.
On her way out of the courtroom, Wallace looked Revell in the eye and said, "I hope you've learned your lesson, Mr. Revell. You dodged a bullet."
Knaflich will be sentenced at a later date.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.